30 September 2008

Egosurf - in the Past

This is too good an offer to pass up: search through Google's index as it was in January 2001. Spooky. (Via Google Blogoscoped.)

The Second Life of Philip Rosedale

Last week I chatted to the founder of Second Life, Philip Rosedale. He was telling me how happy he was that he'd found a new CEO to take over the day-to-day running of Linden Lab. Well, he would say that, wouldn't he? Except that in this case, I believe him....

On Open Enterprise blog.

Viva España Libre!

Most people know that the Estremadura region in Spain is a pacesetter in terms of deploying free software, but here's a handy map that shows how it and everyone else is doing in that country.

In the Blue Corner: Decentralisation...

Here's an interesting emergent meme:

An incoming Conservative government would decentralise health service computing and extend competition between suppliers, according to a plan released at its party conference.

The party's NHS Improvement Plan, released on 29 September 2008 by shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley, says the party will replace "Labour's centrally determined and unresponsive national IT system".

"Conservatives for decentralisation, Labour for centralisation": hmmm, might just work.

Openness is the Solution to the (Double) Subprime Crisis

As I listen to all this talk of lack of trust in the banking system, of inflated values ungrounded in any reality, of “opacity”, and of “contaminated” financial instruments, I realise I have heard all this before. In the world of software, as in the world of finance, there is contamination by overvalued, ungrounded offerings that have led to systemic mistrust, sapped the ability of the computer industry to create real value, and led it to squander vast amounts of time and money on the pursuit of the illusory, insubstantial wealth that is known as “intellectual property”....

On Linux Journal.

29 September 2008

Haque Really Hacks It

I'd stopped reading Umair Haque's posts on Bubblegen because I was beginning to find them increasingly incomprehensible (probably old age on my part). This one is crystalline in comparison - and highly germane to everything I've been writing about on this blog:

Central banks and governments are throwing money at an economic superstructure rotting from the inside - but given the severity of the situation, that's like trying to put out a fire by throwing Molotov cocktails at it.

So what should we do - what can we do - about it? Here's my answer.


That's the third, simplest, and most fundamental step in building next-generation businesses: understanding that next-generation businesses are built on new DNA, or new ways to organize and manage economic activities.

Think that sounds like science fiction? Think again. Here are just a few of the most radical new organizational and management techniques today's revolutionaries are already utilizing: open-source production, peer production, viral distribution, radical experimentation, connected consumption, and co-creation.

Openness, sharing, etc., etc., etc. (Via David Eaves.)

Watch Out! It's a Trap....

Go, RMS, go:

"One reason you should not use web applications to do your computing is that you lose control," he said. "It's just as bad as using a proprietary program. Do your own computing on your own computer with your copy of a freedom-respecting program. If you use a proprietary program or somebody else's web server, you're defenceless. You're putty in the hands of whoever developed that software."

Mind you, I think it would be better if RMS came up with ways of taming clouds rather than just excoriating them (assuming you can excoriate a cloud, which seems unlikely.)

Android Gets a Hand

As I wrote last week, Android's USP is openness. Although that means open to everyone, there is arguably an advantage to open source coding on the Android platform. For a start, the methodology that Android employs will be totally familiar, as will the idea of building on pre-existing code.

Here's a case in point....

On Open Enterprise blog.

Now, That's What I Call a Monoculture

Apparently, Internet Explorer has a market share of around 98.7% in South Korea. As I understand it, this is largely because the South Korean government is even more benighted than the UK one, and insists on using ActiveX controls for its dealings with the public. More figures and explanation here.

ID Cards: Hope and Hopelessness

There's hope:

academic John Daugman, a former member of the Biometrics Assurance Group (BAG), which reviewed the scheme, said its reliance on fingerprints and facial photos to verify a person's identity will cause the system to collapse under the weight of mismatched identifications.

Daugman, an expert on iris recognition, said fingerprints and facial photos are not distinctive enough for telling the UK's 45-million-strong adult population apart.

Daugman said that, even if the error rate was as low as one in a million, the 10 to the power of 15 comparisons needed to verify the indentities of 45 million people would result in one billion false matches.

And there's hopelessness:

Speaking at the launch of the UK's first ID cards on Thursday, home secretary Jacqui Smith claimed problems with taking or recognising fingerprints pose no threat to the effectiveness of the ID-card system.

Presumably because the whole scheme will be utterly ineffectual anyway....

What Microsoft Still Does Not Get

At first, I thought this Computerworld UK story about software vendors “challenging” proposed EU guidelines was just a typical Microsoft whine about the imminent loss of its stranglehold over the government sector in Europe. It is such a bad loser: after having abused its monopoly position for years, essentially telling the world and his or her dog to like it or lump it, it now runs screaming to teacher as soon as there is any suggestion of the playground daring to stand up to its bullying.

But I was wrong; the following comments are no mere knee-jerk whinge, but provide us with a profound insight into the troubled soul of the Redmond behemoth....

On Open Enterprise blog.

Let's Frame This...

....just in case they need reminding:

Dominic Grieve has said it is “high time” Labour abandon their "ill-fated" ID cards project after Jacqui Smith unveiled the design of ID cards for foreign nationals.

The Shadow Home Secretary stressed, “ID cards are an expensive white elephant that risk making us less - not more - safe.”

And he said the Government were “kidding themselves” if they think ID Cards for foreign nationals will protect against illegal immigration or terrorism - as they don't apply to those coming here for less than three months.

A Conservative Government would abandon the ID cards project, and Dominic said he hoped Labour had taken that into account when they negotiated the contracts.

“If they have not acted on this to protect the British taxpayer, it is reckless in the extreme at a time of heightened economic uncertainty.”

27 September 2008

A Question of Perspective

I’ve been asked to share a few words about the reported theft of 900,000 records of past and p1resent RAF service personnel, often with bank account details.


We should put this in perspective. This is an isolated incident. There is no reason to suppose that the thief has any idea of the value of this data on the black market. In any event, most of these staff have certainly had their details lost already. This will be true if they have children, have taken driving tests recently, are also members of Al Quaeda or the Iraqi security services, have been in prison or use local GP services. All of this data has already been lost or transmitted to the “toxic soup” pool of shared data, as it were.

Brilliant, brilliant stuff: kudos.

26 September 2008

Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov, We Salute You

Think about it.

Tragedy of the Fishy Commons

Fishing vessels on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland are this week destroying the best hope for years that the region's cod fishery, once the world's most abundant, might yet recover.

Faced with utter, selfish stupidity like this, I do sometimes think we deserve what is bubbling up through time towards us....

Deu, Dé, Dee, Deus, Deux, Dex

A free, online Anglo-Norman dictionary? God, that's cool. (Via languagehat.com)

Hear, Hear...Here, Here

A fine, impassioned tirade here from Cory Doctorow about ID cards - now being rolled out to people like him - and how Labour has killed liberty in this country:

Many of my British friends act as if I'm crazy when I say that we must defeat Labour in the next election. We're all good lefties, and a vote for the LibDems is considered tantamount to handing the country over to the Tories. But what could the Tories do that would trump what Labour has made of the country? The Labour Party has made a police state with a melting economy, a place where rampant xenophobia makes foreigners less and less welcome -- where we are made to hand over our biometrics and carry papers as we conduct our lawful business. The only mainstream party to speak out against this measure is the LibDems, and they will have my vote.

To my friends, I say this: your Labour Party has taken my biometrics and will force me to carry the papers my grandparents destroyed when they fled the Soviet Union. In living memory, my family has been chased from its home by governments whose policies and justification the Labour Party has aped. Your Labour Party has made me afraid in Britain, and has made me seriously reconsider my settlement here. I am the father of a British citizen and the husband of a British citizen. I pay my tax. I am a natural-born citizen of the Commonwealth. The Labour Party ought not to treat me -- nor any other migrant -- in a way that violates our fundamental liberties. The Labour Party is unmaking Britain, turning it into the surveillance society that Britain's foremost prophet of doom, George Orwell, warned against. Labour admits that we migrants are only the first step, and that every indignity that they visit upon us will be visited upon you, too. If you want to live and thrive in a free country, you must defend us too: we must all hang together, or we will surely hang separately.

This is an issue beyond politics: if the only way to destroy the cancer is by destroying Labour in its current form, so be it.

A Victory (of Sorts) for e-Petitions

It's easy to be cynical about 10 Downing Street's e-petitions (I should know). But here's a case where it might even have done some good.

Thank you for your e-petition, which asks that The National Archives convert its electronic records to Open Document Format rather than Microsoft Open XML Format, in order to make them accessible to users.

The National Archives is committed to preserving electronic records that are both authentic, and easily accessible by users. Wherever possible, records are made available online in a format which can be accessed using any standard web browser. Electronic records transferred to The National Archives are always preserved in their native format; if the native format is not suitable for online access then a separate ‘presentation’ version is created. No single format can address the diversity of electronic records held by The National Archives. At present, documents transferred in Microsoft Office formats are converted to Portable Document Format for online access. PDF is an international standard (ISO 32000-1: 2008) and is supported by all major browsers, either natively or via freely available plug-ins. The National Archives does not currently plan to convert any records to Microsoft Office Open XML format.

It's the last bit that's important: there were rumours circulating that some dark deal was being done to lock up the Archives in OOXML. For the moment we seem safe....

Beware Non-Evil Companies

The open source company Ringside had an interesting idea:

Ringside enables any website to be a container for OpenSocial applications.

Alas, that idea doesn't look like it is going much further, and for a rather interesting reason:

We were ready for our Series A round of funding, and in late May we received a number of term sheet offers from the very best VC firms. As we were about to finalize our funding, one of the biggest non-evil Internet companies asked if we would have interest in being acquired instead. After a lot of thought and debate, we decided that the larger company would enable us to get our technology to market sooner and with more impact.

The story sounds almost too good to be true. And it was. After dragging out the process for most of the summer, the non-evil company decided that they really did not want to acquire the company after all. Recommendation: always beware of wolves dressed as Grandma, they may be more like Microsoft than they admit.

I wonder who they could be talking about...? (Via ecmarchitect.)

25 September 2008

"Three Strikes and You're Out" is Out


Ce matin, le Parlement européen a enterré la riposte graduée. En France, et dans les tous les pays membres de l’Union. Une « énorme gifle », selon la Quadrature du net, pour les lobbys de l’industrie culturelle et l’administration française. « On ne joue pas comme ça avec les libertés individuelles. Le gouvernement français doit revoir sa copie ! », a indiqué de son côté l’eurodéputé socialiste Guy Bono.

[Google Translate: This morning, the European Parliament buried the graduated response. In France, and in all member countries of the Union. A "huge slap," according to the squaring of the net for the lobby of the cultural industry and the French administration. "You do not play like that with individual freedoms. The French government should review its copy," said his side Socialist MEP Guy Bono.]

I also like another quip of that nice Mr Bono:

«Aujourd’hui l’Europe apparaît comme le dernier rempart contre les velléités liberticides de certains Etats membres»

Of course: *that's* what Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are with their ID cards and endless authoritarianism: liberticides.

Want to Open Flash? Ask Sun How

I'm not the world's biggest fan of Flash, but there's no denying an open version would at least be better than a closed one. Here's why that's not happening:

Now whether we would publish the entire Flash Player as open source is something that first of all would be somewhat challenging in that there are some codices in Flash that we don't have the rights to all the source to. That's one challenge with that. The other is that I think in terms of what's best here for consistency of Flash on the web, having multiple implementations and having forking and splintering of that code would be a big loss for the web in terms of that consistency. So we're really working to be a good steward of Flash and making sure that it runs across operating systems on the web. And we really want to make sure that we don't end up in a situation where it's fragmented and loses the value that it has brought to the web so far. That's really what we're working to do is to maintain the consistency, but we're very inclusive of open source and involved in open source to enable that innovation of the open source community to be part of the success story with Flash.

Now replace the word "Flash" with "Java", and you have *precisely* the argument that Sun used to give for not open-sourcing Java. Which is now available under the GNU GPL.

Adobe, are you listening...? (Via Aral Balkan.)

Google's First Open Source Product

So the fabled Googlephone has arrived. It's pretty much as people expected, with tight integration to Google's main services, including a rather nifty use of Google Street View. It undoubtedly lacks the glamour of the iPhone, and even misses a trick or two in terms of basic mobile technology – Apple's use of the touchscreen seems superior – but that is mitigated to a certain extent by the presence of a keyboard for those of us who can't live without such things.

But maybe the most important fact about the G1 is that for the first time Google has shipped a major product that is open source....

On Open Enterprise blog.

24 September 2008

Put That in Your Intellectual Monopolies Pipe...

...and smoke it:

the Department of Justice has limited resources to dedicate to particular issues, and civil enforcement actions would occur at the expense of criminal actions, which only the Department of Justice may bring. In an era of fiscal responsibility, the resources of the Department of Justice should be used for the public benefit, not on behalf of particular industries that can avail themselves of the existing civil enforcement provisions.

(Via Boing Boing.)

90% Open Source Lightning

Well, not exactly: Lightning, which comes from Mozilla, is a 100% open source calendar extension for Mozilla Thunderbird....

On Open Enterprise blog.

Stop Software Patents Today - and Every Day

Today is World Day against Software Patents, apparently:

Three years ago the European Parliament stopped the attempt to make software patents enforcable in Europe. An unprecedented community effort made it possible with a relative low awareness about the dangers among larger software companies. Since then litigation and patent traps have become a serious problem for the market and users of software. We need to reduce patent risks which impede innovation and investment.

On a worldwide scale Patent Offices continue to grant these rights and did not adapt their practice. They are facing a patent crisis caused by lowering standards and fail to cope with their examination backlog. In a patent office the main creativity shown is directed towards interpretation of their own legal base. Even without political support the patent community expands what can be made patentable through practice and case law. Though they face a groundswell of interest in stopping software patents their typical excuse is: "We don't grant software patents, we don't really know what software patents are." or "Why exclude software?" or "We just execute the law.". Additionally they lobby the legislator. It is upon democratic forces to bring bureaucracies back under control which live well off with their software patent regimes. It is indispensible that the software community remains organised and responsive.

We want to overcome the software patent crisis. We raise awareness about their devastating effects on the emerging information and knowlege society where software predominates and we make our constructive reform proposals heard. But without your support there would be no way to succeed. Rather the ongoing threads would aggravate.

Of course, *every* day should be a Stop Software Patents Day....

Could it Get Even BECTA?

News that an open source company has become an accredited IT services supplier for schools and colleges across the UK broke on Monday. As has been widely noted, this is an important step forward for free software, albeit a rather belated one....

On Open Enterprise blog.

Microsoft's Black Humour

Just yesterday, Microsoft Malaysia posted a new advertisement in a Malaysian daily which gloated that it now had control of all the software pirates in Malaysia. This new "feature" targets pirates by making the background of the desktops black, making it easy for law enforcers to fine the law breakers.

As this post points out, animadverting to screens of death is not a very clever move.

23 September 2008

Proof That Authoritarianism Leads to Insanity

A government minister has spoken glowingly of the prospect of kids as young as six handing over their biometrics as she boasted that the Tories and LibDems would find it impossible to unpick the government’s ID card scheme.

Barking, totally barking.

Clever Old Cleversafe

I have been a bit remiss in not mentioning Cleversafe before. It's a company with a very, er, clever idea, which has been open source from the start. It's just released a new version of its free code, and this gives me a good opportunity to to make up for past sins of omission....

On Open Enterprise blog.

Who Needs Wikipedia...?

...when you've got Deletionpedia:

Deletionpedia is an archive of about 63,552 pages which have been deleted from the English-language Wikipedia.

Deletionpedia is not a wiki: you cannot edit the pages uploaded here. An automated bot uploads pages as they are deleted from Wikipedia.

Couldn't we make that a round 65,536 (another pedant asks)? (Via the Next Web.)

How Not to Fly the Flag...

Flying the flag for "UK digital firms" is a nice idea; pity they got the Union Jack back to front (a pedant writes...)

IBM Fires a Shot Across the ISO's Bows

I've written before about the parlous state into which the once-irreproachable ISO has fallen, particularly with its flagrant disregard of the concerns of major developing countries like India and Brazil during the OOXML standardisation process. Pointing out the ISO's flaws is easy enough, but fixing them is more problematic. It seemed likely that much of the impetus would come from those countries that have been marginalised by the ISO, but things have just got much more interesting with the announcement of IBM's new “IT Standards Policy” which addresses precisely these issues....

On Open Enterprise blog.

22 September 2008

Urgent: Telecoms Package Vote *Again*

Back in July I urged you to write to your MEPs about the Telecoms Package. Well, I'm at it again: the main vote was postponed, and will now take place on Wednesday 24 September, so there’s still time to write to your MEPs and ask them to support some amendments that should help (more details from Open Rights Group.)

On Open Enterprise blog.

Of Digital Abundance and Analogue Scarcity

Recently, I’ve started buying records. I’ve decided that CDs just aren’t enough of a collector’s item. Since I can own all the music I could ever want digitally, I want to buy something that looks nice, special, and something that’s going to be fun to browse through in a couple of years. Records are beautiful collector’s items, CDs don’t even come close; especially because records are almost always available in special limited editions with coloured vinyl, posters, extra sleeves and whatnot. I also prefer the warm, soothing sound of records compared to the sound you get from CDs and especially MP3s, which - contrary to what some may believe - do not have nearly the same sound quality as CDs or records.

This is one way for the music industry to make money: sell *records* again....

UK Gov Short of Cash? Kill the ID Card

At a time when Labour is pledging "no tax increases", and yet is facing a bigger and bigger deficit, one easy part of the answer is clear: scrap ID cards now, and save yourself £19 billion you haven't got.

Word of the Day: Gagauzia

Never 'eard of it. You live and learn....

Peer-Reviewed Open Journal of Science Online

One of the most eloquent proponents of the idea of open science is Cameron Neylon. Here's an interesting post about bringing peer review to online material:

many of the seminal works for the Open Science community are not peer reviewed papers. Bill Hooker’s three parter [1, 2, 3] at Three Quarks Daily comes to mind, as does Jean-Claude’s presentation on Nature Precedings on Open Notebook Science, Michael Nielsen’s essay The Future of Science, and Shirley Wu’s Envisioning the scientific community as One Big Lab (along with many others). It seems to me that these ought to have the status of peer reviewed papers which raises the question. We are a community of peers, we can referee, we can adopt some sort of standard of signficance and decide to apply that selectively to specific works online. So why can’t we make them peer reviewed?

Two Views of Enterprise Open Source

You can tell business is a bit quiet in the open source world, because it seems that everybody wants to talk to me at the moment – clearly they have nothing better to do. As I described, I met up with JasperSoft last week, and then the next day had a chat with not one but two companies whose views and comments offered contrasting viewpoints on enterprise open source....

On Open Enterprise blog.

19 September 2008

Cisco Reduces Messaging to Just Jabber

Cisco today announced its intent to acquire privately held Jabber, Inc., a provider of presence and messaging software. Based in Denver, Jabber will work with Cisco to enhance the existing presence and messaging functions of Cisco's Collaboration portfolio.

As several have pointed out, open source doesn't really enter into the equation - or even get a mention in the press release. That's not surprising: Cisco neither gets nor cares about free software. For Cisco, this is just some pretty icing, which it will doubtless distribute freely. Everyone else can now forget about making money in messaging.

Open Access Books from Bloomsbury Academic

Here's a fine open access initiative, but unusually, it's for books:

Bloomsbury Academic is a radically new scholarly imprint launched in September 2008.

Bloomsbury Academic will begin publishing monographs in the areas of Humanities and Social Sciences. While respecting the traditional disciplines we will seek to build innovative lists on a thematic basis, on issues of particular relevance to the world today.

Publications will be available on the Web free of charge and will carry Creative Commons licences. Simultaneously physical books will be produced and sold around the world.

For the first time a major publishing company is opening up an entirely new imprint to be accessed easily and freely on the Internet. Supporting scholarly communications in this way our authors will be better served in the digital age.

Let's hope it, er, blooms.

Open Source Giraffe

One of the biggest votes of confidence in open source can be found in the number of previously closed-source companies adopting it as part of their strategy. Here's another....

On Open Enterprise blog.

The *Other* Vista: Successful and Open Source

The is a clear pattern to open source's continuing rise. The first free software that was deployed was at the bottom of the enterprise software stack: GNU/Linux, Apache, Sendmail, BIND. Later, databases and middleware layers were added in the form of popular programs like MySQL and Jboss. More recently, there have been an increasing number of applications serving the top of the software stack, addressing sectors like enterprise content management, customer relationship management, business intelligence and, most recently, data warehousing.

But all of these are generic programs, applicable to any industry: the next frontier for free software will be vertical applications serving particular sectors. In fact, we already have one success in this area, but few people know about it outside the industry it serves. Recent events mean that may be about to change....

On Linux Journal.

Avast There, Me Google Hearties

Google may be evil, but at least it has a sense of humour:

It recently came to our attention that Google was not accessible to a large, influential, and notoriously quick-tempered community: Pirates. As of today we are proud and rather relieved to announce that Google Search is available in Pirate.

That's Pirate the *language*....

Toshiba Who?

There is a deep irony in this:

Most netbook enthusiasts could recite the specs sight unseen, based on the most popular spec of the 9 inch netbook market. The powerplant is Intel’s 1.6GHz Atom N270, with 512MB of RAM in the Linux model (running Ubuntu 8.04 with OpenOffice 2.4) and 1GB in the Windows XP version, and a hard drive up to 120GB. Then there’s a LAN socket, 802.11g Wi-Fi, three USB ports (which can charge connected devices such as an iPod even while the netbook is asleep), a low-res (0.3 megapixel) webcam and memory card reader.…… sorry, did we nod off at the keyboard for a moment there?

Quite. Once Toshiba was the Microsoft of portable computing, but it's belated and boring entry into the ultraportable market confirms that - like Microsoft - Toshiba is a follower, not a leader.

18 September 2008

St. Bruce Nails it Again

airport security has to make a choice. If something is dangerous, treat it as dangerous and treat anyone who tries to bring it on as potentially dangerous. If it's not dangerous, then stop trying to keep it off airplanes. Trying to have it both ways just distracts the screeners from actually making us safer.

Read the whole thing - it says it all.

Is Sir Tim B-L Distancing Himself from the W3C?

When you've invented probably the most important technology for fifty years – and then magnanimously given it away – it's hardly surprising if your every move is seized upon. And yet in the case of Sir Tim Berners-Lee's latest wheeze, I've been struck by the paucity of real analysis. Most commentators have been happy to applaud its obviously laudable intentions. But I wonder whether there might be more to the move than meets the eye....

On Open Enterprise blog.

Enterprise Open Source 2.0

Yesterday I met up with Brian Gentile, the CEO of JasperSoft. He's relatively new to the job, although not new to the company, since he was already on its board for some time. It was striking that much of our conversation was about marketing and management, and that's probably a fair reflection of why Gentile's there: he's been brought in essentially to take that little old open source startup to the next level – and that means worrying about all that tiresome adult stuff like articulating corporate strategies, conversion rates, and generally getting a good operational handle on things....

On Open Enterprise blog.

16 September 2008

A Breath of Fresh Air

A major breathalyzer vendor is facing increasing pressure to make the source code of its product available for inspection by defendants. I’m pleased to see my home state of Minnesota leading the charge. The Constitution gives you the right to confront your accuser, and if your accuser is 50,000 lines of assembly code, then you have a right to examine that code. And if CMI doesn’t want to release the source code for its products, then it shouldn’t have gone into a business in which its product is the key witness against defendants in criminal cases.


BECTA Back in Play

Just in case you thought things were getting a little dull in the world of UK computing compared to, say, UK finance, here comes the BECTA roller-coaster again....

On Open Enterprise blog.

"Written Declaration" on Open Source in the EU

I've written before how worthwhile it is contacting your MEPs about open source and related matters. Well, here's another opportunity. Some enlightened MEPs have crafted “Written Declaration 0046/2008” urging the European Union to step up its support of free software....

On Open Enterprise blog.

Khmer Software Initiative

"Khmer" and "free software" are not the most obvious collocations. Indeed, the word "Khmer" tends to suggest just one other word - "Rouge" - in relation to that long-suffering country, Cambodia. So news that people are working on localised versions of open source has to be good news:

Noy’s built up a team inside NiDA to localize open source desktop apps into Khmer (a language too small to be interesting to Microsoft), build up open source development skills amongst young people (still early days on this one) and train end users on Linux, Open Office and Firefox (20,000 people and counting). He’s also the major champion behind Khmer OS, a localized OpenSuse distribution.

We Have Nothing to Fear...

...but fear itself:

Americans' fear of a terrorism could create a mass outbreak of a psychosomatic illness -- even in absence of any real attack -- -- creating a fake epidemic that could overwhelm hospitals attempting to treat any real victims.

Adding to the confusion, the symptoms of a mass pyschogenic illness look much like symptoms of an anthrax attack, avian flu outbreak or chemical attack.

At least that's what the feds warned hospitals in a non-public 2006 communique recently published by the government sunshine site Wikileaks.

So not only does the so-called "war on terrorism" solve nothing, it creates its own problems.

Which is why the only *real* solution is not to be afraid....

15 September 2008

How Open is the Open Video Player Initiative?

Here's that “open” meme again:

Interactive agencies, ad technology firms and software firms joined with Akamai to build a best practices approach to online video player development. The goal of the project was to give the industry a resource that promotes existing best practices around rich media development. Over the last three years thousands of applications have been developed based on this standard powering millions of video plays....

On Open Enterprise blog.

To Be Or Not To Be...Anonymous

Online anonymity is undoubtedly a two-edged sword. On the one hand, it ensures that people can express their opinions freely, but on the other it allows some to abuse that freedom by posting untrue, abusive or inflammatory material. So far, a kind of pragmatic balance has been struck between the two competing demands for total anonymity and total traceability. But according to this report, some are pushing for a shift towards traceability....

On Open Enterprise blog.

Should Mozilla Rebrand Itself as Firefox?

Firefox is a massive success in Europe, but what is striking about its adoption is the variation from country to country. For example, in Finland it has a market share of over 45%, while in the UK, to its eternal shame, it is a pathetic 20%. How can such a huge disparity be explained?

Well, I have my dark theories involving Bill Gates and a poodle, but putting those aside for the moment, here's an interesting attempt from Mozilla to find out more....

On Open Enterprise blog.

Why Patents Are Broken, Part 4783678

The European Patent Office (EPO) is warning of "Global Patent Warming" in light of the growing number of patent applications it is receiving. At the AIPPI (Association Internationale pour la Protection de la Propriété Intellectuelle) Congress that closed today in Boston, EPO head Alison Brimelow said that the increasing number of patent applications is currently the biggest problem that patent offices face and is slowing down the issue of patents.


An EPO spokesperson told heise online that the increasing number of patent applications does not mean that the world is coming up with more innovations. Rather, inventors and companies that already hold patents in one country are lining up at many other national patent offices to get patents for other markets.

In other words, more patents that are even more worthless.

12 September 2008

Spore? 'S Poor....

Don't you just love the smell of spontaneously-combusting DRM in the morning....?

Another Expert Group Gets It

One of the heartening signs of things changing in the world of intellectual monopolies is that more and more groups and studies are coming out that highlight the manifest problems with the current system. Here's another one, this time from the Internation Expert Group on Biotechnology, Innovation and Intellectual Property.

Here's the nub:

The core finding is that policy-makers and business leaders must give shape to a new era of intellectual property to stimulate innovation and broaden access to discoveries. The current system, ‘Old IP,’ rests on the belief that if some intellectual property (IP) is good, more must be better. But such thinking has proved counterproductive to industry, which in health fields has seen declining levels of innovation despite increasing stakes in intellectual property. The era of Old IP has also proved counterproductive to the world’s poor who await advances in health and agriculture long available to the global elite.

The International Expert Group on Biotechnology, Innovation and Intellectual Property concluded that a ‘New IP’ era that focuses on cooperation and collaboration is slowly emerging. Intellectual property is meant to assist in this process by encouraging cooperation among various brokers and stakeholders. The best innovative activity occurs when everyone – researchers, companies, government and NGOs – works together to ensure that new ideas reach the public, but are appropriately regulated and efficiently delivered to those who need them.

Although I don't agree we need a new era of intellectual monopolies so much as one *without* intellectual monopolies, it's still an important statement, given the stature of those making it. The full report is here.

Appassionato about Passionato

By now, it's evident that the old model of music distribution is irredeemably broken. This has led to various attempts to offer download services, but most of them have been horribly half-hearted, with one or more fatal flaws (and that includes iTunes, whose use of DRM means that it just doesn't cut the mustard.)

Against that background, I can only wonder at Passionato, a new online service for the world of classical music - it's gets just about everything right:

Passionato's aim is to become the world's most comprehensive online classical resource and offer classical music lovers the largest available collection of high-quality DRM-free classical music downloads. Passionato provides access to catalogues from the two largest major labels (Universal Music and EMI Classics) as well as the key independent classical labels including Naxos (the biggest independent), Chandos (one of the premier British independent labels), Avie and Arts.

Designed for classical music lovers, Passionato's main features are: DRM-free recordings, transferable to any portable device and burnable to CD; high audio quality downloads (320kbps DRM-free MP3 and lossless FLAC); access to free software the Passionato Player specifically developed to help organise users' existing Classical CDs alongside tracks purchased through the Passionato Store; an unprecedented level of recording information which users benefit from when they download a track, work or album, and when they import their own CD libraries to their computers; the ability to search Passionato's recordings using over 20 fields, including by work, composer, conductor, venue and recording engineer.

Passionato does not employ any DRM (Digital Rights Management) technology. This means your purchase allows you to transfer your downloaded audio files to your portable player, CDs and other media for personal use. Purchase does not include file transfer for commercial purpose.

Not only no DRM, but high-quality MP3 *and* lossless FLAC format - just what audiophiles love.

The site is still a little rough at the edges, and the prices are rather on the high side, but those are details that can be dealt with later: the core ideas look spot on. I hope the new service thrives - not least so that it can act as an example to others who have less of a clue.

De-Fanging Microsoft

Like many, I was intrigued and ultimately disappointed by the first of the new Microsoft ads. But I assumed that it was in the nature of a teaser – or maybe even a clever ploy to lower expectations for later episodes, thus increasing their eventual impact....

On Open Enterprise blog.

They're Worried: More anti-OA FUD

Peter Suber has the relevant quotations - and the full rebuttals of the misinformation therein.

No "surrender"....

11 September 2008

The Real Reason to Celebrate GNU's Birthday

As you may have noticed, there's a bit of a virtual shindig going on in celebration of GNU's 25th birthday (including Stephen Fry's wonderfully British salute, which really, er, takes the cake....). Most of these encomiums have dutifully noted how all the free and open source software we take for granted today – GNU/Linux, Firefox, OpenOffice.org and the rest – would simply not exist had Richard Stallman not drawn his line in the digital sand. But I think all of these paeans rather miss the point....

On Open Enterprise blog.

Uzbeks, Rejoice!

You have your own distro:

Завершена работа над созданием релиза Linux дистрибутива Doppix 2008.0 Edu, национальной операционной системы Узбекистана. Дистрибутив базируется на Mandriva Linux 2007.1 Spring Free, содержит полный набор образовательных, офисных и мультимедийных приложений, и предназначен для использования в среднеобразовательных учебных заведениях (школы, колледжи и лицеи), а также на домашних компьютерах и рабочих станциях предприятий.

Doppix 2008.0 Edu поддерживает 3 языка: узбекский (кириллица/латиница), русский и английский. В процессе разработки нестабильные и устаревшие пакеты были заменены более новыми. Также был добавлен обширный объём документации и расширена справочная система. Дистрибутив Doppix 2008.0 Edu разрабатывается с учётом местных условий специально для учебных заведений. Основной упор при разработке сделан на стабильность, простоту и общедоступность.

[Via Google Translate: Completed work on a Linux distribution release Doppix 2008.0 Edu, a national operating system in Uzbekistan. Distribution is based on Mandriva Linux 2007.1 Spring Free, contains a full set of educational, office and multimedia applications, and is intended for use in secondary schools (schools, colleges and lyceums), as well as home computers and workstations enterprises.

Doppix 2008.0 Edu supports 3 languages: Uzbek (Cyrillic / Latin), Russian and English. In the process of developing unstable and obsolete packages were replaced with newer. Also added was a vast amount of documentation and expanded information system. Distribution Doppix 2008.0 Edu developed to suit local conditions specifically for schools. The emphasis in the design placed on stability, simplicity and accessibility.]

10 September 2008

How Healthy are the Views of the BCS?

This morning I was giving a talk at the EFMI (European Federation for Medical Informatics) Special Topic Conference, held at the headquarters of the British Computer Society (BCS). It was interesting – well, for me, at least: I'm not sure what my victims in the audience thought of my usual ramblings on open source and openness...

On Open Enterprise blog.

A2K Goes ODF

Access to Knowledge is an important movement designed to make knowledge, well, more accessible. Its conferences a serious knees-up where the great and good in this field congregate. This year, they've done something sensible:

Open Document Formats have finally become the default document format for presentations. Having been at all three editions, I am personally impressed that the ISP has come this far. In the first edition, we had proprietary document formats; during the second edition, there was a 50-50 thing going on but the default still remained proprietary. The third edition has proved to be 100% ODF.

This needs to become the default at all open conferences: it will help peopl kick the Word/Powerpoint habit.

09 September 2008

The Road to World Domination

One of my regular themes on this blog is how open source is moving beyond the infrastructual programs it best known for – GNU/Linux, Apache, Sendmail, BIND etc. - and starting to produce free software solutions for quite specialist vertical sectors. Here's the latest one – and it's a biggie....

On Open Enterprise blog.

Not So Much Jaunty, As Jarring...

As we approach the launch of Ubuntu 8.10, it's time to create space for future plans, and so I'm writing to introduce you to The Jaunty Jackalope.

Jaunty, the code name for what will most likely become Ubuntu 9.04, will be the focus of our efforts from November through to April next year. We will be gathering forces in Mountain View on 8th - 12th December to survey the upstream landscape and finalize Jaunty plans, enjoying the excellent hospitality of Google and Silicon Valley's abundance of talent and innovation. The Ubuntu Developer Summit is the social and strategic highlight of each release cycle and it would be a great pleasure to welcome you there. Jono Bacon has written up a http://www.jonobacon.org/?p=1278 guide to sponsorship for those who would have a substantial amount to offer at the Summit.

So far, so good.

The Warrior Rabbit is our talisman as we move into a year where we can reasonably expect Ubuntu to ship on several million devices, to consumers who can reasonably expect the software experience to be comparable to those of the traditional big OSV's - Microsoft and Apple. The bar is set very high, and we have been given the opportunity to leapover it. It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance to shine, and we want to make sure that the very best thinking across the whole open source ecosystem is reflected in Ubuntu, because many people will judge free software as a whole by what we do.

Whaaaat? "Once-in-a-lifetime chance to shine"? Do we really need this kind of breathless marketing hype?

Look, Ubuntu is, in my 'umble experience, great; it's going to get better, no doubt. But honestly, I don't think what it faces is a "once-in-a-lifetime chance to shine". Perhaps Mr Shuttleworth needs to go back to space to get a better grip on the bigger picture here....

Give One, Get One: I Still Don't Get It

There can be few open source projects that offered so much promise, and yet which have so signally failed to deliver, as One Laptop Per Child. As I noted below, open source software seems made for education, and the idea of combining that with hardware specifically designed for children in developing countries, with all that implies in terms of ruggedness, power availability and access to infrastructure, seemed just inspired....

On Open Enterprise blog.

When Will They Ever Learn?

Here's some news from Red Hat:

We’ve partnered with Seneca College, one of the leaders in instituting open source software into its coursework, to bring Fedora to the classroom....

On Open Enterprise blog.

08 September 2008

Credativ Picks up the (Open Source) Phone

I mentioned last week how popular the open source telephony system Asterisk was. Unsurprisingly, I'm not the only one to have noticed this, and that the whole sector is booming....

On Open Enterprise blog.

OS/2: the Open Source Laboratory

Remember OS/2? It was the going to be the “real” operating system that took over from the mickey mouse Windows.... Somehow, that never quite happened (can't imagine why), but OS/2 aficionados remain as loyal to their OS as any Mac fanboy. One interesting suggestion that crops up periodically is that IBM should open source OS/2....

On Open Enterprise blog.

05 September 2008

Asterisk Discovers Again Why Open Source is a Star

Call me parochial, but until a few minutes ago, I'd never heard of MFC/R2, and certainly had no inkling it might be important. Apparently:

MFC/R2 is a telephony signaling protocol, which dates back over 50 years. Its full name is the Multifrequency Compelled R2 Signaling System. It was originally used to provide register to register (i.e. switch to switch) signaling over analogue copper pair wiring at a higher speed than had been possible with pulse dialing....

On Open Enterprise blog.

Open Source Surveillance

True open source surveillance does exist. It's called sousveillance, and uses the idea of distributing the task among many people, often in response to centralised surveillance. It's an interesting idea, especially in the context of a society like the UK's, where we are constantly spied on by CCTV cameras.

Alas, that's not quite what we talking about here....

On Open Enterprise blog.

AT&T: Proud of its Pathetic Patent Pathology

I thought the image in this post was only vaguely amusing, and so didn't bother pointing it out. But now that AT&T wants to add bullying to greed and stupidity, I feel obliged to urge you all to rush over and look at it *really* hard.... (Via Boycott Novell.)

Why Open Source Will Save the World

Here's a nice intro to why open source will save us - and not just from Microsoft:

the 20th Century's model of development - the "Washington consensus," proprietary technological diffusion, the whole ball of wax - has completely failed a billion people and left another four billion falling farther and farther behind, while trashing the planet at an astounding rate.

But that's changing. Tools exist, right now, to make intellectual property regimes beside the point. Tools exist to give the developing world the capacity to build its own technology, to its own needs, and grow richer and more sustainable in the process. Those tools are the tools of collaboration. Open the source code of innovation, and we'll change the planet.

Cracking the GNU/Linux Security Cliché

One of the jibes about GNU/Linux from the closed-source crowd is that the only reason there so few security exploits against it is that its market share is too small for crackers to care. Against that background, the following development must represent some kind of milestone....

On Open Enterprise blog.

Sharing is Part of the Human Condition

I missed this when it first came out, but it's too good not to er, share:

“Since the dawn of time, human beings have felt the need to share - from food to art. Sharing is part of the human condition. A person who does not share is not only selfish, but bitter and alone,” Coelho told TorrentFreak, explaining why he decided to share his books for free.

And he should know:

Paulo Coelho, the best-selling author of “The Alchemist”, is using BitTorrent and other filesharing networks as a way to promote his books. His publishers weren’t too keen on giving away free copies of his books, so he’s taken matters into his own hands.

04 September 2008

I Don't Want to Say We Told You so...

...but we told you so. If you use proprietary programs and proprietary formats, this is what happens:

A number of European startups - and many others globally - will be thrown into chaos today with the news that Adobe is discontinuing development of its Flashpaper product.

Adobe will continue to sell and support the current FlashPaper 2 version, but won’t be updating the technology to support Microsoft Windows Vista and IE7, which will make it virtually worthless.

The news will hit US sites like Scribd and Docstoc, and European sites like the UK’s edocr and Germany’s Twidox which only recently won funding. edocr currently bases all its document sharing on Flashpaper.

Twidox CEO Nicholas MacGowan von Holstein contacted TechCrunch UK today to say the move would have a major impact: “What about all the websites that have been storing all their documents with Flashpaper? It will be a major job having to transfer all those documents to a new solution.”

Why the Dell Inspiron Mini 9 Doesn't Really Deliver

Although I still think it's of great symbolic value, the Dell Inspiron Mini 9 is disappointing – and I'm not just talking about the name (how many marketing people did it take to come up with that little gem?) It's disappointing, of course, because you can't yet buy the GNU/Linux version, but more seriously, it's disappointing because its price – at £299 for the Windows version, and a few tenners less one presumes for the GNU/Linux one – is just too expensive....

On Open Enterprise blog.

03 September 2008

The Networked NGO

Here's an interview with Cory Doctorow, who explains with frightening lucidity just how he and his chums broke the WTO system. Key bit:

One of the truly subversive and amazing things the NGOs did is that we set up open WiFi networks that weren't connected to the Internet -- because there was no Internet access at the meetings when we started -- and then we would take exhaustive collaborative notes on what was said. It's very hard to take notes at these events. Diplomatic speech is very stylized, so you'll have a typical intervention which begins something like, "Mr. Chairman, allow me to congratulate you as I take the floor for the first time, on your reappointment to the chairmanship. I have every confidence that with your steady hand at the tiller, you'll guide us to a swift and full consensus on the issues at hand. The delegation from Lower Whatistan is pleased to take the floor." Und zo weiter. Eventually you get to the point, and after 20 minutes it boils down to, "No." Taking notes on that kind of speech is really grueling, because it's very hard to stay attentive and catch the one little phrase that has meaning.

So we'd have teams of three or four people using collaborative note-taking software, and one would be taking notes, one would be adding commentary and another would be following behind and correcting typos and formatting and the like. Meanwhile, we're all of us checking each other as we go -- filling in the blanks, noting discrepancies and so on -- and then publishing it twice a day at lunch and dinner.

Now, the delegations there were accustomed to the old WIPO regime, where the notes would be taken by the secretariat, sent out for approval by the delegates, sanitized -- all the bodies would be buried -- and then published six months later. And what happened once we started working together like this is that delegates would get calls on their lunch break about things they'd said that morning. Suddenly, they're immediately accountable for their words, which completely changed the character of the negotiations.

The usual: light-footed, distributed, collaborative openness beats leaden, monolithic and closed anyday.

Cardiff Council Welshes on Welsh Culture


An action group says it is "aghast" at plans to sell some of Wales' oldest and rarest books.

Cardiff Council could eventually sell up to 18,000 items dating from the 15th Century at auction to raise money for improvements in library services.

Why don't they just ban culture and be done with it?

US Discovers It's Part of the World

The pollution from Asia will only make it increasingly difficult for the U.S. to meet stricter and stricter air quality standards, said Lyatt Jaegle, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle .

"It is only expected to get worse," Jaegle said of the Asian air pollution reaching the U.S. She added that scientists have discovered the problem isn't unique to the Pacific Rim . "Air pollution is not a local or regional problem, it is a global problem."

No, really? (Via Slashdot.)

ContactPoint: What is it Good For?


Anderson disagrees: "If you allow large numbers of people access to sensitive data it's never going to be secure. You can't protect it. ContactPoint should simply never have been built."

This is Prof Ross Anderson, and he knows whereof he speaketh.

02 September 2008

Chrome: Google's Anti-Browser

The most surprising thing about Google's new Chrome browser is that it's taken so long for it to appear. After all, the browser has been central to practically everything that Google does, so it would be foolish to allow others to control it....

On Open Enterprise blog.

The Beijing Bounce

It's started:

Beijing residents are becoming increasingly vocal about their demands to keep emergency measures introduced for the Olympic Games.

These measures, which run until 20 September, include keeping drivers off the roads, closing polluting factories and shutting down rubbish dumps.

The result has been a less polluted city with blue skies and clearer roads.

More than 400,000 residents have joined online discussion groups to talk about retaining the measures, reports say.

The Beginning of the End for the ISO?

Yesterday I was urging people to submit comments on the EU's interoperability framework. I mentioned that one of the important issues in this context was dealing with flawed standards, even – or especially – ones that claimed to be “open”. When I wrote that, I was unaware that a rather weightier group of individuals had applied themselves to the same problem, and come up with something that I think will prove, in retrospect, rather significant: the Consegi Declaration....

On Open Enterprise blog.

How Low Can They Go?

How about $98 low?

HiVision CO., LTD makes one of the worlds cheapest Linux laptops at $98 using a new cheaper chipset, WiFi, 1GB flash storage, it runs Linux, 3 USB ports, Ethernet, SDHC card reader, audio in and out. Voice-chat, Skype, multi-tabbed Firefox browser support, Abiword for word processing.

(Via tuxmachines.org.)

01 September 2008

Wanna Job?

How about a professorship in source?

University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany

Applications are invited to fill a permanent position as
Professor (W 2) in Open Source Software

at the Computer Science Department in the Faculty of Technical Engineering, beginning at January 1st, 2009.

The successful applicant will be expected to represent his discipline both in research and teaching. He has actively worked in a major Open Source project and has excellent scientific qualifications in this area, including research experiences in at least one of the following areas:
• Process management, quality assurance, team building for Open Source Software
• Development processes and tools for loosely coupled, distributed software engineering
• Essential characteristics of successful Open Source architectures
Furthermore, business and legal aspects of Open Source Software are of interest. Contributions to the department's degree programs, including the one on Information Systems are expected.

Prerequisites for the job are a university degree, good teaching skills, a doctorate and proof of further academic research or publications. The latter can, alternatively, be in the form of a post-doctoral habilitation or similar academic qualifications which may have been attained in specialized fields other than at a university or in the course of a junior professorship.

Don't all rush.

Write to Them: European Interoperability Framework v2

I've noted before that writing to MPs/MEPs seems to be remarkably effective in terms of generating a response. The naïve among us might even assume that democracy is almost functional in these cases. I'm not sure whether that applies to something as large and inscrutable as the European Commission, but it's certainly worth a try, especially in the context of open source and open standards.

Here's an opportunity to put that to the test....

On Open Enterprise blog.